Proust believed the “real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes”, but in Costa Rica he’d be wrong. In the farmer’s market surrounding the perimeter of Santo Domingo de Heredia’s town center it was our sense of smell which enticed us explore. Situated around three blocks across from the town’s religious centerpiece, Basilica Santo Domingo, the bustling Costa Rican outdoor market didn’t disappoint during our daytime excursion. Led by local resident and ceramic artist, Gerardo Selva Godoy, we were given a tasting tour of the myriad of tropical fruits, vegetables, seafood, legumes, and even fresh roasted coffee grown in the region, alongside an opportunity to observe locals shopping for their weekly provisions. Pineapple, mangoes, plántano, granadilla, mamechinos (aka rambutan), cooked pejibaye (peach palm fruit), and countless other real-world Starburst fruit flavors all mixed into an intoxicating perfume. This urgent scent of ripeness permeating the market is unforgettable, an allure like the scent from the nape of an imaginary jungle fertility goddess’s neck.
The Costa Rican diet is primarily made up of beans, rice, fish, vegetables, and a wide variety of native and Asian/African tropical fruits mostly eaten whole or in juice form (plantains and the pejibaye are two exceptions, with each enjoyed preferably cooked). Some warned the food in Costa Rica would leave me unimpressed. I’d disagree. There was much to appreciate in the populace’s appreciation for freshness, as was on full display as sellers peeled, poured, chopped, scooped, stirred, and shucked the cornucopia of the region’s bountiful produce. It will be a long time before I forget a market so characterized by its fragrance and punctuated by flavors so dimensionally rich beyond sweet.